A Killington ski adventure

killington

By Marlene Greer

Sometimes we west coasters can be ski snobs. We have so many great SoCal and Western US ski resorts to choose from we don’t bother with what’s on the other side of the country. Well, we’ve put aside our bias and are trying – for the first time – skiing in Vermont. Join us in our adventure on the right coast as we explore historic Killington and Pico ski resorts.

Families and friends make Deer Valley a tradition

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley is a skiers-only resort — one of the few left in the country. And Deer Valley plans to keep it that way.

“We survey our guests and (no snowboarders) is among the top reasons why people come to Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager. He says the resort is doing well financially with only skiers, and he doesn’t see the policy changing.

No snowboarders made our skiing experience more relaxed. And quiet. Deer Valley is excellent casual skiing at its best.

Jill, skiing at Deer Valley with a friend and her friend’s daughter Lauren, described it a little differently. “It’s lazy skiing,” said Jill, a vivacious 50-something lifelong skier. “Nice runs, not crowded, no snowboarders, not too difficult. I’m old. I’ve got bad knees. I want nice, easy skiing.”

This was the trio’s third trip to Deer Valley in three years. The two friends from Texas, whose husbands don’t ski, have been skiing together for many years. Lauren joined them three years ago for their annual ladies-only ski trip, and Deer Valley is their go-to destination.

“It started with six of us friends,” Jill said. “Now only the two of us are going, with Lauren. We’ve been to Deer Valley many times. It’s our favorite mountain.”
It’s also the favorite of Amy and Bill from Austin, Texas. The couple returned to Deer Valley for the second year with their two young children, 7-year-old Ben and Caroline, 9.

The parents felt the resort was ideal for their family. Ben’s favorite trail is Ontario, a long green groomer running from the top of Flagstaff Mountain.
“We’ve been doing that all day,” Amy said with a sigh.

The parents also like the kids ski school program.
“They have fun with other kids, and Bill and I can go ski,” Amy said. “They could probably ski with us now, but we like the ski school. It’s expensive, but if you are spending this much to ski here, what’s a few hundred more?”

Deer Valley lift tickets are on the high side — $108 a day for adults, $68 for
children. The resort offers a nice discount for seniors 65 and older at $77 a day.

Making a mother-daughter trip to Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It was snowing for the first time in three weeks when my stepdaughter and I arrived at Deer Valley Resort in early February: Six inches of soft powder over groomed hardpack and just under freezing. Ideal conditions.

We were standing midmountain looking at the trail map trying to decide where to head to for some easy intermediate terrain. We had tried Bald Mountain earlier and found it too chopped up. It also has a 9,400-foot summit, so we were looking for something a bit easier on our first day on skis this season.
A mountain host gave us some great advice.

“Head to Flagstaff Mountain. There are some beauuuutiful blues off the back side,” the friendly Aussie said with the enthusiasm of a skier on a powder day. Everything was an exclamation!

“Take Hawkeye first. It’s excellent! Groomed with a nice pitch,” he advised. “Then try Sidewinder; it’s a bit steeper, but still nice. They are all just beautiful runs!”

This was our first trip to Deer Valley, and we found many “beautiful blues” in the next two days of skiing. We particularly liked Little Baldy Peak. The runs were groomed, nearly deserted (even on a Saturday) and there were no lift lines. We felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Deer Valley, one of the three major ski resorts in Park City, Utah, covers five mountain peaks and 2,026 acres. All levels of terrain can be accessed on all peaks with the exception of the resort’s highest — Empire Peak at 9,500 feet — which offers intermediate and expert terrain only.

Most of the lifts have high-speed quads, giving skiers more time on the slopes. The resort is surrounded by private property, so you’ll see large homes on the side of many runs.

Look for the Raccoon House and the Bear House off Last Chance Trail. Both have whimsical critters of all sizes hanging from the roof, sitting on the deck, peeking in windows and hiding in trees.

Park City adventure: Deer Valley offers elegant ski experience

By Richard Irwin

Deer Valley ski resort is elegance personified. You get that message when you find a new Cadillac sitting outside the lodge.

As if the beautiful log lodge wasn’t enough. And old chairlifts served as porch swings on the verandah.

I found it hard to hit the slopes, when I checked out the plush interior with its club setting. The leather chairs and stone fireplaces reminded me more of a plush country club, than a typical ski resort.

But that’s just the impression that Deer Valley is trying to make. It caters to the well-heeled such as an Orange County couple who were married here 17 years ago, and had returned for Valentine’s Day.

Even the “cafeteria” looked amazing, with a live carving station and natural food bar.

The resort had just hosted the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup in January. U.S. aerial and moguls teams answered questions, while Columbia l unveiled the 2014 Olympic uniforms for the U.S., Canadian and Russian freestyle ski teams.

The rest is history, with the U.S. freestyle winning gold, silver and bronze medals in the Sochi Olympics.

While I’m not Olympic material, I thought it would be interesting to ride the same mountain that our champions had practiced on . So I forced myself back outside to catch my first run of the day.

Choices, choices: Deer Valley can lift more than 50,000 skiers an hour with its gondola and a dozen high-speed quads. Add in the other chairlifts and you get a total of 21 lifts. Heck, I wouldn’t even be able to get to every lift in one day.

With a base elevation of 6,500 feet and a summit height of 9,500, this gives skiers 3,000 vertical feet to play with. I say “skiers” because snowboarders aren’t welcome at Deer Valley.

We worked our way around the mountain, enjoying the well-groomed runs. Beautiful homes lined many of the trails, forcing us to stop every once in a while to oogle celebrities’ homes.

Bald, Flagstaff and Empire mountains all top off above 9,000 feet, so good luck if you’re coming from sea level like I was. Give yourself a day to acclimate and you should be alright.

Deer Valley averages 300 inches of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” blanketing its six mountains – Little Baldy Peak, Bald Eagle, Bald, Flagstaff, Empire and Lady Morgan.

Skiers of all abilities will enjoy a wide range of trails. We stayed on the blue trails and away from the black ones because we didn’t want to land up black and blue at the end of the day.

Mother Nature cooperated with temps in the 30s under partly cloudy skies. On  many runs, we were the only skiers in sight and we never had to wait in line at the lifts.

A friend from La Verne decided to take a ski lesson. She was impressed by the quality of instruction and shared many of the instructor’s tips with me in the afternoon.

At the end of the day, we were sad to leave, but glad we had come. Headed home, we congratulated the Orange County couple and wished them another memorable Valentine’s Day.

Park City adventure: Park City ski resort offers little bit of everything

By  Staff Writer Richard Irwin 

At Park City ski resort, we had a little bit of everything — wind, snow, fog — but we still had a great time exploring this getaway nestled up against the city with the same name.

You can actually catch a chairlift from town, which must inspire a lot of residents to call in sick on a powder day. Actually, the bosses probably plan on it.

We joined in the fun at the lovely ski plaza at the base of the mountain. It looks very new with shops, restaurants and services on the first floor and lodging on several floors above. We gathered at the golden eagle statue for a group shop before heading up.

Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing. There’s also nine — count ‘em, nine — bowls with 750 acres. That’s a lot of territory to cover with the fine, dry Utah snow, but coverage was excellent when we arrived.

We decided to warm up on Homerun, which turns out to be the longest trail measuring 3 and a half miles. Quite the warm up.

Park City actually has 114 trails, with more than half listed as intermediate, while 31 percent are advanced.

The snow was fine as we schussed under cloudy skies. At times, a pale white sun would barely pierce the cloudy veil, lending a cold, bleak light.

Once again, it was ski down, jump on another empty chairlift and shoot back up to the top. Park City has 16 lifts, including four high-speed 6-packs and three high-speed quads.

The total uphill capacity is 31,000 skiers an hour, which should be tested this Presidents Day weekend with every hotel room booked solid.

But we beat the rush and could ski as much as we wanted. We were often alone on our section of the mountain.

A light snow started and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. Not a heavy Sierra snow, but the light, dry snow that Utah is famous for. Its flakes were just big enough to sting your face if you took off your facemask.

Shooting by a terrain park we saw several boarders trying their luck on the jumps. Park City has three parks, including Eagle superpipe and Merrill minipipe.

Caught some high winds at the summit, but it was fine once you got into the valleys. It turned out to be another great day in our Park City adventure.

Next stop: Deer Valley ski resort

Park City adventure: Sun and fun at Canyons ski resort

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Canyons is a huge ski resort on the edge of Park City, Utah. The resort made the top 10 ranking in Ski magazine’s reader resort awards for 2014.

And SnoWonder would have to agree after a great day of skiing on our first stop of our Park City adventure. We couldn’t wait for the lifts to open at 9 a.m. on a slightly overcast morning.

Jumping on the Red Pine Gondola, we were soon halfway up the mountain. After that, it was all down hill, as we shred the groomed runs. The highest peak is the Ninety-Nine 90, which is appropriately 9,990 feet above sea level.

We had a fun day working our way up and down the mountain with the sun finally breaking through for a gorgeous day. The trails were well groomed, letting carve long curves in the snowy surface.

Canyons offers everything from high speed 6-packs to simple double chairlifts. We never found a line at the lifts, allowing us to jump on as soon as we hit bottom.

The slopes were also wide open this week before Presidents Day. Often we were the only skiers in sight.

The resort even breaks down the runs more than most ski resorts. Canyons designates double greens for advanced beginners, as well as double greens for advanced intermediate. This helps take the guesswork out of picking a trail.

We especially liked The Aspens with its nice mix of intermediate and advanced ski runs. We steered clear of Condor Woods with more than a dozen double black diamond trails. Yes, these are for experts only.

We were pretty beat by 3 p.m. on the first day of our Park City adventure. That was fine because the lifts close at 4 p.m.

It was a great start to our tour of the ski resorts in this section of Utah. We’ll have a feature story with more details when we get back to Los Angeles.

Join us tomorrow when we explore Park City ski resort.

SnoWonder visits Park City, Utah, for a week of skiing and snowboarding

Join SnoWonder reporter Rich Irwin as he explores the wonderful ski resorts at Park City, Utah. Rich will visit a different ski resort every day and give us the latest news on these great ski destinations.

Park City is less than an hour away from Salt Lake City Airport, which has many nonstop flights from LAX. Skiers can be in Utah in an little over an hour, then on the slopes an hour after that.

You don’t even need to rent a car since Park City has a massive public transit system that will get around town in a hurry. So leave the car at home, jump on an airport shuttle to Park City and use the free buses.

The resorts got a good dump of snow shortly before we arrived, so we expect some great skiing. More snow is on the way, so we’ll let you know about conditions as they develop.

We’ll even check out some apre ski sites as well as the many restaurants that fill this old mining town.

Ski Pakistan? Absolutely! CNN follows heli-skiers to near the top of the world

Talk about a ski adventure.

The Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan include many of the world’s tallest peaks, and a thrilling challenge for any skier. While the highest paved international road – connecting China with Pakistan – is part of the landscape, the adventurers featured in a recent CNN report by Saima Mohsin avoided this road less traveled and flew in by helicopter.

Click here to catch their wild ride.

High winds and high adventure while spring skiing at Mammoth Mountain

Skiing in the sunshine at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

By Marlene Greer

This week in Mammoth Mountain was the first time I’ve actually had to pole downhill. Yes, that’s right – use my ski poles to propel myself down the mountain.

On Tuesday, bone-chilling winds at the summit hit 75 mph, according to mountain staff, and mid-mountain was not much better with strong 30-40 mph winds. The temperature at the top was a chilly 20 degrees.

The gondola to the summit was closed for three days and opened again on Thursday, though Chair 23, the other lift to the top, remained open despite the high winds. Whether that was a wise choice is debatable.

Those who ventured to the summit Tuesday and Wednesday described winds nearly blowing them over and being pelted unmercifully with ice. Skiing off the summit, they told me, was a scary experience.

Caitlin, a 20-something skier from Utah, was skiing Mammoth on Tuesday with her four friends and got caught off guard at the summit by a powerful gust of wind.

“It was so bad we all huddled together for about five minutes,” she explained. “We didn’t know what to do, which way to go. I felt like I was going to get blown off the mountain.”

Inga, spending spring break at Mammoth with her boyfriend and friends, called her one and only ride to the summit and ski down “an unfortunate adventure.”

Shredding some snow at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

“The wind was blowing ice so hard that the ice hitting my helmet sounded like hail,” her boyfriend added. The San Diego couple did not plan on making a second attempt to the summit that day.

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Volkl Gotama skis really rock

By Art Bentley

After years of skepticism about the claims of manufacturers promoting wide skis shaped like the defining parts of a rocking chair, I’ve come around. The rocker design rocks.

What convinced me was a day on the Volkl Gotama, a portly plank 130 millimeters wide at the tip, 123 at the tail, and 107 underfoot.

Recently, I took a pair all over Bald Mountain, the legendary hill, better known as Baldy, that has been attracting folks to Sun Valley, Idaho, since late 1939, shortly after Ernest Hemingway finished writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in room 206 at the Sun Valley Lodge.

At first I was a trifle leery. This is a beefy board, and I was on the 178-centimeter version, 18 centimeters longer than the slalom skis I usually use.

However, Brad Woods in the ski shop at River Run assured me that due to the rocker design, the length would not be a drawback because the points at which the ski touches the snow are much closer to the boot heel and toe than on a cambered ski with its slight upward arch. Consequently, rocker skis can be tipped on edge much more quickly and easily.

Because I didn’t know what to expect from the Gotamas, I enrolled in College, the easiest run on Baldy, denoted by the green circle that usually marks terrain barely steep enough to induce motion. At Sun Valley, however, it’s not so easy skiing green. College tilts 19 degrees, which would easily rate the blue square of an intermediate run at many resorts.

I angled down the slope from the top. The snow was firm and fast, not supposedly the most favorable condition for full-rocker skis, whose element is deep, untracked powder. I gained speed quickly, easy on Baldy, which has no flat spots. I weighted the downhill edge of the uphill ski, and instantly the Volkls snapped around in a quick, tight and surprisingly effortless C-shaped arc that reminded me of another German name: Porsche.

I repeated the procedure, the result was the same, and my confidence soared. I let the skis go and started leaning into the turns as hard as I could. The Gotamas continued to perform with the same solid authority that makes this sport so addictive.

Five inches of snow had fallen the day before, covering a surface that remained solidly frozen where the groomers hadn’t ventured. Can-Can, a blue run of about 25 degrees, was bumpy and icy under the fresh snow. The skis couldn’t have cared less. As long as I was positioned properly, they turned with the same sport-car precision.

Next I tried Flying Squirrel, a blue run groomed nightly. Here I noticed another trait of the full-rocker design. Whenever I wanted to slow the skis, all I had to do was press with my downhill heel, directing force to the tails. Immediately, the brakes were applied.

Later, I sampled untracked snow in one of Baldy’s eight bowls. Although the skis were scraping a gelid surface under the powder, I got a sense of how they perform in bottomless snow.